American Idol finalist Caleb Kennedy has left the show after a video surfaced where he is sitting with someone wearing a KKK-style white hood. The country singer issued a statement on Instagram announcing his exit and explaining his actions — though not everyone was satisfied. The video is still circulating on social media now.
According to a report by The Herald-Journal, the original video only showed Kennedy sitting with the hooded person, with no music, narration or words on the screen. The version now circulating on social media has the world "bow" imposed over their faces, and music that was reportedly added after the fact. Kennedy's family told the outlet that the video was recorded on Snapchat when he was 12 years old. Once the video began to circulate widely, Kennedy addressed it on Instagram.
You might want to rethink that pic.twitter.com/bhcDFGKMVL— its_yourbitch_marcy (@12marcy12) May 12, 2021
"Hey y'all, this is gonna be a bit of a surprise, but I am no longer gonna be on American Idol," he wrote. "There was a video that surfaced on the internet and it displayed actions that were not meant to be taken in that way. I was younger and did not think about the actions, but that's not an excuse. I wanna say sorry to all my fans and everyone who I have let down. I'll be taking a little time off social media to better myself, but saying that, I know this has hurt and disappointed a lot of people and made people lose respect for me."
"I'm so sorry! I pray that I can one day regain your trust in who I am and have your respect!" Kennedy continued. "Thank you for supporting me."
Kennedy's mother, Anita Guy, told reporters that the mask in the video was not meant to be a reference to the Ku Klux Klan, but to the movie The Strangers: Prey at Night. She said that he and his friends were "imitating those characters," including one who wears an off-white sack over his head with eye-holes cut out. The one in the movie is round with stitches down the face, better differentiating it from the hoods worn by white supremacist terrorists.
Kennedy's departure leaves American Idol one singer short of its Top 4 in a season that has already been marred by odd format changes and controversial cuts. The country singer most recently performed a genre-bent rendition of "Violet Hill" by Coldplay. American Idol will reportedly air without him on Sunday, May 16 on ABC.